In 2008, the state budget was approved almost three months after its due date. Last year, a failure by lawmakers to reach a budget deal until it was two months overdue prompted ratings agencies to lower California's credit rating nearly to junk status, and the delay not only held up state payments but cost billions of dollars in interest on government IOUs. This year, Sacramento has set a dubious record for the latest budget ever. If you think this system is working, Proposition 25 is not for you. But you'll love Proposition 26, because it would make the situation worse.
Under current law, a two-thirds majority vote in both the Assembly and the Senate are required to pass a budget or raise taxes. Proposition 25 would end the supermajority requirement on the budget, but keep it in place for tax hikes. (Opponents of the measure falsely claim that it would do away with the two-thirds rule on taxes too, but their absurd legal arguments were demolished by the 3rd District Court of Appeal.) Proposition 26, by contrast, would add a new requirement for a two-thirds vote to impose certain business fees.
The current two-thirds vote requirement causes budget gridlock in Sacramento because unless the majority party holds two-thirds of the seats, it must win votes from the minority — which is extremely difficult to do in partisan times like these. The requirement also shields both parties from responsibility when the budget is late. Democrats, who currently hold the majority in both houses, can deflect blame by pointing to Republican obstructionism; Republicans have little incentive to compromise because they assume the public will blame the majority party. Conservatives fear that Proposition 25 would cause spending to soar because Democrats would control the purse strings, but there's a remedy for that. No longer able to hide behind Republicans, Democrats would have to answer to the voters for their budgets, and unhappy voters could replace them with Republicans or more fiscally conservative Democrats. A majority vote works just fine in the 47 states that use it for budget approval, and it would go a long way toward fixing California's broken budgeting process.